Vybz Kartel

Vybz Kartel

Adidja Azim Palmer (born 7 January 1976)[2][3][4] better known as Vybz Kartel, is a Jamaican musical artist, record producer and entrepreneur.

Vybz Kartel is one of dancehall's most successful artists and a cultural icon in Jamaica, where he is widely referred to by various nicknames including "Worl' Boss".[5]  Kartel has been recognized as one of dancehall’s most prolific and skilled lyricists and has also been credited with further popularizing the dancehall genre.[5] Many of his singles have achieved cultural ubiquity across the Caribbean, including "Ramping Shop" (2009), "Summer Time" and "Dancehall Hero" (2013).

Vybz Kartel has collaborated with a number of prominent artists, such as Major Lazer, Rihanna and Jay Z. He has also been credited as an inspiration for the dancehall-infused work of a number of Western artists, including Drake, who has cited Kartel as being one of his one of his "biggest inspirations".[5][6]

In 2014, at the age of 38, Vybz Kartel was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his associate Clive "Lizard" Williams. He will not be eligible for parole until 2049, once he has served 35 years in jail.[7] Despite being imprisoned, Kartel continues to release new music prolifically, releasing over 50 new songs in 2016 alone.[5]

In 2016, while in prison, Kartel released his most internationally successful album, King Of The Dancehall which peaked at number 2 on the US Billboard Reggae Charts. The album included the single "Fever" which topped various local music charts and became his most successful on streaming websites.[5]



1993–2002: Early career

Vybz Kartel started his career as a teenager[8] in 1993 with his first recording "Love Fat Woman", released on Alvin Reid's label "One Heart", using the moniker "Adi Banton", an homage to Buju Banton.[9] Palmer was later part of the three-member group "Vybz Cartel", keeping the name after the group split up, and became a protege of Bounty Killer, for whom he claims to have written nearly 30 songs, including "Gal Clown".[10]

2003–2009: Rise to Prominence

Vybz Kartel rose to prominence in 2003 after a string of hits in Jamaica. The year culminated in a pre-planned on-stage clash with Ninjaman at the annual dancehall festival Sting in Kartel's hometown of Portmore. The clash turned violent when Kartel's crewmembers, as well as Kartel himself, threw punches and assaulted Ninjaman onstage.[11] While Kartel's manager initially blamed Ninjaman,[11] Kartel himself quickly apologised to Ninjaman and Sting organizers for the fracas.[12] Four days after the incident, the two artists appeared before the press to announce a settlement of their differences and to end any animosity.[13]

He established his own label Adidjahiem/Notnice Records with his business partner and producer Ainsley "Notnice" Morris.[14] In 2010, he released his album Pon Di Gaza 2.0 on Adidjahiem/Notnice Records in collaboration with Tads Record Inc.[15] In Spring 2011, Vybz Kartel released an album on Mixpak Records entitled 'Kingston Story' with Brooklyn hip hop/electro producer Dre Skull. From the beginning to midst of his ongoing career, Kartel released a number of albums through the UK based label Greensleeves Records, such as 'Up 2 Di Time', 'More Up 2 Di Time', J.M.T. and more.[16]

Kartel has worked on collaborations and remixes with hip hop and R&B musicians Jay-Z, Rihanna, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, M.I.A, Pharrell Williams, Fifth Harmony, Kardinal Offishall, Akon, Jim Jones, Lil Wayne and Eminem.

In 2009 his song featuring female Jamaican deejay Spice, "Ramping Shop", debuted on the Billboard Top 100 Singles charts,[17] and "Dollar Sign" being in regular rotation on urban radio stations in the US.[18] His 2010 single "Clarks" was one of his biggest international successes, remaining in the top 3 Reggae Singles gaining the most radio plays in North America for 40 weeks.[19] "Clarks" was also featured on the TV series So You Think You Can Dance Canada,[20] and on a CNN segment on dancehall dance.[21] MTV's Vice Guide to Dancehall featured Kartel at his weekly dance party, Street Vybz Thursday.[22]

After splitting with Bounty Killer-led Alliance in 2006, Kartel joined the Portmore Empire, a group of dancehall DJ's and singers from his Portmore neighborhood that he signed to his newly founded Adidjahiem/Notnice Records. Some of the members consisted of Popcaan, Deva Bratt (founder),[23] Gaza Slim, Shawn Storm, Sheba, Gaza Indu, Tommy Lee, Singing Maxwell, Singa Blinga, Lenny Mattic, Lisa Hype,[24] Gaza Kim,[25]Blak Ryno,[26] Jah Vinci, Dosa Medicine and Merital Family.[27]

2010–present: King of The Dancehall

In 2016, while in prison, Kartel released his most internationally successful album, King Of The Dancehall which peaked at number 2 on the US Billboard Reggae Charts. The album included the single "Fever" which topped various local music charts and became his most successful on streaming websites.[5]

Business career

In 2008, Kartel launched his own liquor line; Street Vybz Rum. He hosted a weekly dance party Street Vybz Thursday, at the Building, a Kingston nightclub he managed with Street Vybz Rum business partner, Corey Todd.[28] The rum was officially distributed by Vybz Distillers Limited. The same year, he also released his own condom line, Daggerin Condoms.[29] Street Vybz Rum production was stopped in 2011 because of a disagreement between him and Corey Todd. However, the collaboration resumed in 2012 as the two settled their differences, and despite Kartel's ongoing incarceration.[30]

In 2011, he released his own shoe line, named Addi's, as well as his own line of "cake soap", a skin lighting agent.[31][32][33]

When his singles "Clarks", "Clarks 2 (Clarks Again)" and "Clarks 3 (Wear Weh Yuh Have)" featured the British shoe brand Clarks in 2010, its sales numbers and prices in Jamaica increased considerably.[34]

Vybz Kartel has also hosted his own reality television show "Teacha's Pet" on CVM Jamaica broadcast channel, the first reality television show hosted by a dancehall artist in Jamaica. The premise of "Teacha's Pet" found 20 women living in a Kingston house vying for the artist's affection; the show's lascivious content elicited condemnation of its sponsor, telecommunications company LIME. The show came to a halt with the artist's arrest on murder charges in September 2011.[35]

Arrest and imprisonment


On 29 September 2011, Kartel was arrested by police for marijuana possession. Jamaica's Major Investigation Taskforce (MIT) later charged him with the murder of a Jamaican businessman, Barrington Burton, conspiracy to murder and illegal possession of a firearm.[36]

While in prison in 2012, his book The Voice Of The Jamaican Ghetto: Incarcerated but not Silenced, co-written with business associate Michael Dawson, was published.[37]

Though Kartel was granted bail for the Burton murder on 23 March 2012 for JD$3,000,000, he remained in jail in connection with a second murder, of one Clive 'Lizard' Williams, of Waterford, St Catherine.[38] He was charged, along with two others including Vanessa "Gaza Slim" Saddler, with perverting the course of justice, after Saddler allegedly claimed that Williams had robbed her in order to mislead the police into believing that he was still alive.[39] Kartel's trial was originally scheduled for 21 January 2013, but had to be postponed due to a lack of jurors, and was rescheduled for 11 July.[40]


On 24 July a jury found Kartel not guilty of the charge of murder of Barrington Burton. However, Kartel remained in custody pending the second murder case.[41] His trial for the murder of Clive Williams started on 18 November 2013, and on 13 March 2014 he was found guilty by an eleven-member jury (10-1) of murder of 27-year-old Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams.[42][43][44] The 65-day trial was said to have been the longest in Jamaica’s history.[45]


On 3 April 2014, Kartel was sentenced to life imprisonment. Justice Lennox Campbell said he would be eligible for parole after serving 35 years.[46][47]


Whitening (Bleaching)

Kartel has come under controversy over perceived skin whitening, or "bleaching", leading him to claim the use of "cake soap" to lighten his skin.[48][49] The Blue Power Group, Jamaican manufacturer of the popular cake soap (or "blue soap"), has refuted claims it changes skin color.[50] Kartel stated the soap used to lighten his skin was his own company brand, which he intended to release on the local market and to overseas clients.[31]

Airwave ban

In September 2011 the National Communications Network of Guyana banned Vybz Kartel from the airwaves—the first such action against a specific artist.[51] His music contained "obscene lyrics" and brought "nothing positive" to the entertainment industry, said NCN spokesman Martin Goolagong (Wednesday, Sept 21) after a week of internal debate. He said NCN was reviewing the lyrics of other musicians and could ban them as well.

Feud with Mavado

A public feud between Kartel and former collaborator Mavado arose towards the end of 2006, stemming from Vybz' much publicized departure from the dancehall conglomerate group The Alliance. The feud resulted in numerous diss tracks released, in which each artist dissed the other and their associates over popular dancehall rhythms.[52] In a police-overseen press conference in March 2007, both Mavado and Vybz Kartel publicly announced an end to hostilities and apologized to fans.[53]

However, by the summer of 2008, tensions flared with a renewal of "diss tracks" from each artist, and a lyrical clash between the two at Sting 2008 left mixed views as to the "winner".[54][55]

Most of 2009 saw a continuation of the public feud, which dominated Jamaican media and, to a certain extent, Jamaican culture, with the two artists' factions, Gaza (Kartel) and Gully (Mavado), being adopted by Jamaican youth, in some cases leading to street violence.[56][57]

On 8 December 2009, Kartel and Mavado met with Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding in an attempt to end the feud, which had by that time fueled mob attacks in some of the inner city neighborhoods of Kingston.[58] The two had performed together on-stage the previous night in a sign of goodwill at the West Kingston Jamboree, a concert promoted by drug lord[59] Christopher "Dudus" Coke.[52] After the truce in December 2009, the two artists were scheduled to perform a unity concert in March 2010 in Barbados, which was later cancelled by Bajan Prime Minister David Thompson.[60]



Kartel has had several collaborations with international hip hop and pop stars. He has released two albums for the UK/US based label Greensleeves Records. He was also nominated for the Source,[69] VIBE and UK MOBO awards, although his 2004 UK MOBO award nomination was withdrawn amidst controversy over homophobic content of his lyrics.[70]

  • 2003
    • Stone Love's 30th Anniversary
      • DJ of the Year 2005
  • 2008
    • CUMA (Caribbean Urban Music Awards)
  • 2009
    • EME Awards[71]
      • Male DJ of the Year
      • Lyricist/Songwriter of the Year
      • Song of the Year (Romping Shop ft. Spice)
  • 2010



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